How to be a woman by Caitlin Moran
In case you may have forgotten how...Caitlin Moran is here to tell you How to be a Woman.
This book is one part memoir and one part feminist monologue. Moran takes her readers through her developmental years up through marriage, childbirth/rearing, etc. She has an engaging writing style that's very conversational and definitely keeps you reading throughout. The book almost felt like a long speech/lecture, rather than a memoir.
Does Moran impart any revolutionary ideas? Not really. Is this a piece of academic prose complete with sources and footnotes in the Turabian style? Not at all. This is a social commentary of where the author thinks women have come from, where they are now, and where she hopes they go. The big thing that I liked was how she tried to differentiate between feminism and militant feminism. More often than not, the label of "feminist" brings to mind those of a militant feminist point of view and the author argues that this should not be the image invoked. I did not agree with every opinion she put forth, but I don't think she would necessarily find fault with those who disagree with some of her points. I think Moran is striving to make women more aware of their place in society and to draw attention to the fabricated boundaries that have the potential to hold women back.
Playground by Jennifer Saginor
That's how far I got before deciding that this one's going back to the library. Totally not worth the time. (There may be "spoilers" in the review...you have been warned)
Again, as I've said with other memoirs, I feel the need to say that my low rating is not a condemnation against the author or her experiences.
No, this only got one star because the writing style was horrible and it was a creepy book.
The writing was so trite and stilted I almost wondered if there was a ghost-writer involved. But then I realized I didn't care enough to try to find out so that will be a question I will never have answered. And I'm ok with that. Saginor also recounts memories in amazing detail. Other reviews point this out as well - how on earth can she remember not only what designers she was wearing, but also the colors of each garment as she walks into various clubs? How can she remember the exact time she left a club? I know authors have to embellish for the sake of filling out a memoir, but too much and the book just seems like fiction.
And cue the creepy. While I wasn't expecting a memoir version of The Girls Next Door, I also wasn't expecting an abusive, perverted, drug-addled father figure, the denigration of every single female the author meets, and a lesbian tryst (that was also statutory rape of the author). The only major description in the book (up to the point that I read) is the sex scene with a Hef's girlfriend. I'm sorry, but I don't want to read a sex scene that involves a child. It's statutory rape and not something that should be glorified in any way...even if the author is "damaged" and "looking for maternal warmth".
And while her childhood was horrific and abusive in its own way, there comes a time when the constant, "I'm like this because my dad made me like this" or "I'm like this because I was a pawn my parents used in their contentious divorce" just comes across as hollow excuses.
Again, I haven't finished the book. I hope the author has pulled herself out from the horrible childhood she was subjected to and I hope she addresses that in the book...otherwise the book is just a collection of creepy, perverted recollections looking to make a buck off of Hefner's popularity.
At 46%, however, I have to call in the towel.
It's been a slow start this year, y'all. Yes, I have started all four books on the sidebar. No, I'm not done with any of them at the moment. It's not that they're bad books...I like them all so far. It's just been slow going. Of course, I'm sure our house losing water for 3 or 4 days due to frozen and burst pipes (yay, winter.) didn't help matters. I have managed to finish a different book, though. It's another memoir. From another geek/nerd. What can I say...it's how I roll.
Just a Geek by Wil Wheaton
Apparently I missed the fact that Wil Wheaton wrote a book. In 2004.
But, better late than never I suppose.
From Stand By Me to Star Trek: TNG (I never fully understood why Wesley Crusher was so reviled by so many Trekkies...) to Table Top, Wil Wheaton has been a well-known face among geeks, nerds and various other assorted fans for quite a while.
Just a Geek is Wheaton's memoir of that "in-between" time after he left Star Trek: TNG and before he essentially re-branded himself as the quintessential geek.
While I have always been a TNG fan, I never knew the angst under which Wheaton left the show. I also never knew the angst Wheaton dealt with following his departure as he was met with failed audition after failed audition. He left TNG in the hopes a big movie career would follow quickly on its heels...but, alas and alack, it did not.
Just a Geek is an honest look at the self-doubt, frustrations, and hardships that can follow an actor who is struggling to break into the Hollywood scene (or, in Wheaton's case, to break back into the Hollywood scene).
That said...it is angsty and it is full of confessions of self-doubt...so much so that one might think the book takes on an almost whiney tone at times.
But, can you blame him? I know I certainly can't fathom what it was like to be a child star only to fall off the radar. While the book does take on a certain tone at parts, it's also quick to point out personal triumphs and turning points. It comes across as a seemingly honest and exposed memoir of his "in between" period.
"In between what?" you ask? Well, like I said, the book was written in 2004. I guess my geek card gets suspended for a few days because I totally didn't know Wheaton was an author beyond his popular blog that I check sporadically (so sporadically I didn't see where I am sure he promoted his books on said blog). Now, in 2014, Wheaton is the host of the popular web series TableTop - one of the main shows on the Geek & Sundry channel. He has also been so successful as branding himself as the quintessential geek that he can now make cameos of himself on popular shows like Big Bang Theory and the like. Obviously the tides have turned somewhat for Wheaton. No, it's not the big movie career he had hopes for after his departure from TNG...however, he is now known as WIL WHEATON...rather than that guy who played Wesley Crusher from TNG. I'd call that a success.
Just a Geek is a fun, if slightly dated, read. And one thing is for certain - Wheaton can write in a style that, as Picard would say, ENGAGEs the reader and is probably best enjoyed while drinking a cup of Earl Grey, hot.
Nerd Do Well by Simon Pegg
I really enjoyed Nerd Do Well. When I saw that it was in audiobook form andnarrated by Simon Pegg...well, I had to give it a try. I'm glad I did. It was interesting to hear about Pegg's formative years and Pegg's humor made it all-around entertaining.
I knocked it down a star because...well...I just didn't like the sci-fi story. Pegg intersperses his memoir's chapters with brief interludes of a fictional sci-fi story that features a remarkably similar Simon Pegg. The story started out entertaining and humorous, but I just lost interest as the story wore on. It almost felt like the sci-fi story was just filler to make the book a little thicker.
If you are a self-avowed geek/nerd/Simon Pegg fan/whatever then definitely give this book a whirl. I'd recommend the audiobook version simply because of the narration...it's almost like a prolonged narration like you would hear in one of Pegg's movies like Shaun of the Dead.
Native Star by M.K. Hobson
I was pleasantly surprised by The Native Star - it was not really what I was expecting. I don't know if I would classify this book as straight fantasy or straight steampunk or straight western or what. It's a fantasy, steampunk, western book with elements of romance and (of course) zombies. Ok, so the zombies are only in the novel for a hot second but I felt they warranted a mention.
In The Native Star, Emily Edwards is a Witch for a small community on the Western frontier. Times are tough for her and her adopted father and in a desperate bid to increase their station in life, Emily casts a love spell on the local, rich lumberman, Dag. The resident pompous Warlock, Dreadnought Stanton, is quick to haughtily point out that her love spell is way too strong. Through a series of events, Emily and Dreadnought find themselves in a mine full of zombies where a glowing crystal stone embeds itself in Emily's hand. Understandably, Emily is upset of the geological implant and she and Dreadnought embark on a mission across the West to learn more about the stone and try and remove it from her hand. Along the way a band of evil Warlocks catch the scent of the magical stone and try any means necessary to recover the stone. Emily and Dreadnought struggle to evade the evil ones while discovering their feelings for each other may run deeper than they had originally thought.
This was such a well thought out book. The magic system and world building are probably the best elements - they are very indepth and rich. Hobson creates a mid 1800s world where magic and steampunk seem not only normal, but also necessary for the function of society and life. I found myself wanting to learn more about the world, the magic, and the stone in Emily's hand.
I found the characters to be done well, too. They weren't your average fantasy characters which was refreshing. This novel definitely focused more on the magic and the plot rather than the romance which was a nice change. I think there could have been more romance in the story, but at the same time, it's nice to read a book that focuses on plot rather than on just the steamy scenes.
The only thing that bumped this from a four-gnome to a three-gnome for me was that the book was slow to read. It wasn't "slow so I'm going to put it down"...it was "I've been reading for how long and I only got through 20 pages?!"...I'm used to breezing through books much more quickly. I think the world building and magic system required me to slow down so I could digest the content and, while that is not a bad thing at all, I didn't like having to do that for this book.
[read Sept. 2013]
Warlord by Angela Knight
I don't know what I think about this one...
On one hand, it was a pretty interesting story - I mean, where else do you meet a time-traveling, genetically altered warrior with his talking timberwolf companion? And where else do you follow said warrior and wolf as they protect a journalist from the most famous serial killer of all time (who, come to find out, is also a time-traveling, genetically altered being which is why he was never killed at the time of his infamous murders...I can buy that *cough*)?
On the other hand, parts of it were your typical paranormal/urban fantasy romance. Well, erotica would probably be more appropriate... It seemed a little "Insta-Love" to me - I mean, if above-mentioned warrior broke into my house and started going through my bedroom things, I probably would not have jumped in bed with him THAT SAME DAY like our heroine here. (Well, and since I am already married, my husband would probably frown on my jumping into bed with the warrior at any time...but that's beside the point...)
All in all, I enjoyed the book...but not enough to read the novella and short story that followed it. I thought it had the potential for uniqueness...but then slid into the realm of the cliche.
Still - like urban fantasy (or in this case, more sci-fi)? Then give Warlord a whirl.
[read September 2013]
Facing the Music and Living to Talk About It by Nick Carter
Let me preface this review by saying: I have been a fan of the Backstreet Boys since they released their very first single "We've Got It Goin' On" on cassette tape back in the day. I must have worn that cassette tape out waiting for them to come back to the states and make/release their full album. I still treasure my signed group picture. And while my taste in music has grown over the years, BSB still holds a special nostalgic place in my heart.
This was a horrible book. Keep reading, please --> it is NOT horrible because of what Nick has been through. I commend him for overcoming his trials and having the courage to discuss them publicly. And I am NOT passing judgement on him or what he has done over the years in any way.
Got that? Not judging Nick. Not judging his experience or his rehabilitation.
No, this was a horrible book for a couple of reasons:
1. This book didn't know what it wanted to be -- a self-help book or an auto-biography. It kept jumping around...one paragraph would be Nick discussing his childhood and then it would awkwardly morph into how you can lift yourself out of a downward spiral/drug abuse. I felt this book would have been better served if it had EITHER been an auto-biography with a chapter on self-help OR a self-help book with a few auto-biographical anecdotes thrown in the mix. As it stands, the book seems jumbled.
2. It's apparent that Nick is a musician and not a natural writer. The book doesn't read well and random slang thrown into the text gives it a jarring feel (to use slang myself - this book was a hot mess). There is a lot of repetition in the book as well which makes it rather tedious.
3. Most of the sources he used were websites...not to go all academic snob or anything, but (as a history grad student) if I were to turn a paper in to my professor and I used mostly websites and maybe two physical books...well, the results would NOT be pretty. I'm not saying he has to use primary sources or anything...but go to the library...request a book...utilize a better source than the Huffington Post.
3. He's still untested as far as his rehabilitation goes so it seems premature of him to give self-help advice. Again, please keep reading --> I'm not saying that his rehabilitation is false or temporary or, again, that what he has accomplished in kicking drugs and alcohol is trivial. It's not. Anyone who can overcome those trials is amazing and deserves to be commended. It's just that with so recent a recovery, it's hard not to be cautious with viewing his rehabilitation. At the end of the book he talks of his and his fiancee's devotion to exercise and health - almost obsessively so. It comes across as though he is replacing his previous drug and alcohol addictions with an obsessive addiction to exercise which makes one think he hasn't truly conquered the fundamentals of addiction. To replace one addiction with another does not mean one is rehabilitated (even if the new addiction is healthy) because you are still dealing with the same issues, just using a different medium to cope. All that to say - it seems awfully soon to write a self-help book.
So, I give this book two gnomes--> one for nostalgia and one because of what he has overcome. No stars for the actual book itself because it just doesn't "Have It Goin' On".
[read September 2013]
[I received an ARC of this title from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. I was not compensated in any way.]